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The Three Legged Chicken a Tall Tale as retold by Stephen Douglas Hedrick


I travel roads from Roanoke

to Mobile’s breezy shore

and often drive the countryside,

sellin’ seeds to General Stores.


‘long the way I seen some sights

that boggle up the mind;

wild and often weirdly things,

south the Mason Dixon line.


I seen the biggest ball of twine,

jumpin’ gators, Elvis shrines,

seen the bourbon mash refined

and miles and miles of kudzu vine.


But the strangest scene I ever saw

was just the other day

while drivin’ down a country road,

up St. Clair County way.


The farms were lined along in rows,

their fence posts zippin’ by,

when all at once a mighty breeze

blew my hair piece ‘cross my eyes. 


It took a while to recompose,

steer the car back on the road, 

and try to see who blasted past

so fast the sound still echoed.


I pressed my nose to the steerin’ wheel,

stomped the pedal, tires squealed,

to catch up with that dirty heel

who put me thru this-here ordeal.


A cloud of dust obscured my view

but I was keen to rendezvous

and pull ‘longside to curse a few

howdy-doos at this yahoo.


But what I saw instead, firsthand,

I’d swear this on a witness stand,

right beside my black sedan

-- a three legged chicken ran.


The fleeted fowl gave a nod,

then took off like a rocket rod

that sent a plume of dust and sod

‘cross the hood of my new dodge.


And tho’ I tried to close my jaw,

I watched the bird with studied awe.

It hopped a fence of split rail logs

and ran ‘cross a field of fresh cut straw.


Now, that piqued my curiosity.

I slammed the brakes and turned the key,

jumped the fence fancy-free

but approached the farmhouse cautiously.


Sittin’ on the front porch there,

a farmer rocked a rockin’ chair

and whittled wood so unaware

of chickens, chickens everywhere.


They milled about the barnyard free,

pecked the ground right gingerly;

‘bout as normal as can be,

‘cept they all had legs in threes!


I slapped the dust from my white hat

and asked the farmer for a chat.

He looked-me up and down, then spat,

and gave the empty chair a tap.


I took a seat and quickly told

of my encounter on the road.

If he heard, it never showed,

he just kept shavin’ curly rows.


He hummed along then at a pause

he offered me a plug of chaw;

chew tubacci – Cannonball.

I chewed, to be polite and all.


It tasted like a mix between

leather strings and gasoline.

I smiled and nodded thankfully

as I turned two shades of green.


He placed his whittle wood with care

on the handrail that was there,

then propped his boots, a dusty pair,

leaned way back and declared,


Sonny boy, these chicks you see

were bred by sheer necessity.

The wife, and Junior, ‘specially me,

like our drumsticks mightily.


But only two per bird, it seems

the dinner quandaries never cease.

We had to find the expertise

to realign the family peace.


So Junior went to seek the means

at Auburn University

and when he’d made that List of Deans,

he l’arned to splice together genes.


And when indeed he’d done the deed

and come up with this special breed,

we started this-here hatchery

of free-range chickens, hormone free.


Tho’ with the extra legs we’re pleased

there’s yet a bonus to the three 

for as you witnessed recently

they’re endowed with blindin’ speed.


Dollar signs danced ‘cross my eyes

and with my best smile so applied,

I told the farmer what a lucky guy

he was that I came by.


For bein’ in the salesman’s game

has given me a business aim

and I could make the farmer’s claim

on chicken legs a household name.


After he had heard my spiel,

I asked him if my thoughts appealed.

He took his whittle, shaved a peel,

then gave a nod to seal the deal.


I stood up quick, prepared to race,

when one last thought held my place.

I turned and said that, in my haste,

I forgot to ask how his chickens taste!


He chewed his chaw, whittled some,

then spit, and said soft spoken,

I’d like to know myself, son

…we never been able to catch one.


(NOTE - the Three Legged Chicken is a tall tale in the public domain. This version is copyrighted, as extrapolated and versed, by Stephen Douglas Hedrick)





Photo by Jack Anthony -

Kudzu Blues

by Stephen Douglas Hedrick 


Our quaint kudzu vines

at first seem benign

but quickly entwine

whatever they find.



They blanket the ground

each gully and mound,

the streetlights they crown

and billboards surround.



On telephone wires

they grow like wildfire,

‘cross rooftops and higher 

to wrap the church spire.



Your backyard, once trimmed,

is covered with them;

the kid’s jungle gym,

jacuzzi’s condemned.



You vow their demise,

pull on your levis,

untangle, untie

and spray herbicide.



You hack at the mess

like a man possessed

but lay down to rest,

they’ll grow ‘cross your chest.



Alien monsters

must be their sponsors;

seeds sown to conquer

from flying saucers.



Perhaps we should go

along with the flow;

accept kudzu’s role

as art alfresco.



And smile, tho chagrinned,

these vines don’t begin

to ravage our skin,

like their kin– poison ivy!




Stephen Hedrick